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Published February 19th, 2020
Moraga's Business of the Year and Nonprofit of the Year named
From left, Alu-Motion sculptor Buddy Brodwin and Teresa OnodaFrom left, Mechanics Bank Universal Banker Sarn Saefong, Branch Manager Brandy Ford and Senior Universal Banker Pilar Norleen Photo Vera Kochan

This year's Business of the Year recipient is Mechanics Bank located inside Safeway at the Moraga Shopping Center. The Nonprofit of the Year honor goes to Lamorinda's Community Emergency Response Team.
According to Moraga Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathe Nelson there are so many reasons why both organizations deserve the award. Mechanics Bank is "truly a community bank. Their employees can be seen at every civic event; they generously sponsor everything from Saint Mary's sporting events to the Community Fair," adding how employees are well trained, efficient and very pleasant to work with. "Mechanics has very competitive programs on all levels, and they have a great customer service department."
Nelson's praises are just as high for CERT. "Their mission is to prepare the community for any and all emergencies," she said. "They offer training in all facets of emergency response, remind us to have enough water and supplies on hand, provide backyard water storage containers to offering sandbags, should we have flooding in and around our homes. It is a small group of people that provide a huge amount of very important information."
Mechanics Bank has provided over 100 years of service to the East Bay beginning with its founding in 1905, by E.M. Downer. Initially named the Bank of Pinole, it became Mechanics Bank thanks to the service it provided for the workers of Richmond's two largest companies, Standard Oil and the Santa Fe Railroad. The bank has been serving Moraga since 1996.
Corporate Officer/Branch Manager Brandy Ford has been with Mechanics for 13 years, eight of them in Moraga. When asked whether she expected to work in Moraga's branch for so long she replied, "When I first came, no. As I grew, working with my customers and the community, I couldn't see myself anywhere else."
Mechanics Bank has long been a sponsor of many organizations and events such as the Moraga Educational Foundation, the Saint Mary's College basketball team, Xenophon, Saklan School events, East Bay International Jewish Film Festival, the Kiwanis Lobster Festival and, coincidentally enough, Moraga's Business of the Year and Nonprofit of the Year event.
"I was really shocked when I saw that we were nominated," Ford stated. "By the way the nomination was written I could tell that it came from a customer. It's truly an honor to be recognized by the community that you take pride in doing your work for."
Nonprofit of the Year, Lamorinda CERT, has been serving the community since 1997. The CERT concept was created by the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985 and came to the forefront in 1987 during the Whittier Narrows Earthquake. By training civilians in disaster preparedness the LAFD recognized the importance of teaching citizens to safely help themselves and the neighbors within their community.
Lamorinda CERT has trained in excess of 1,000 residents under a "Train and Maintain" objective in the hopes that graduates of their Basic Training Series will continue as active members. Moraga-Orinda Fire District sponsors the volunteer-based program whose instructors, for the most part, have Federal Emergency Management Agency experience.
Program Manager Duncan Seibert wants citizens to know that their website offers emergency supplies for sale to the public. CERT operates with no salaries and no office expenses through an all-volunteer labor force. Their only outlay is the cost of running water drum and fire extinguisher programs. Anyone interested in purchasing emergency supplies such as water drums or fire extinguishers can visit the website: supplies.lamorindacert.org.
"The purpose of CERT is to teach people to be ready for disasters," Siebert stressed. "We teach people how to do it on-scene. The residents will be the true first responders."
The dinner honoring both recipients and sponsored by Aegis Living of Moraga and Mechanics Bank is scheduled at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24 at La Finestra, 1419 Moraga Way (Moraga Shopping Center). Tickets are $65 per person. RSVP by Feb. 20 as seating is limited. For more information visit www.moragachamber.org or contact Nelson (925) 323-6524.

Lamorinda CERT Program Manager Duncan Seibert Photo Vera Kochan

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